Posted December 10, 2019
The R-Club has served as a “much needed” revenue source for UW-River Falls athletic department and has been transformational in the way Falcons sports are directly involved with booster clubs, says the school’s athletic director.
In her time as UWRF’s athletic director, Crystal Lanning — who currently oversees the R-Club — has seen multiple iterations of booster clubs to support the athletic department and the wide variety of sports.
Prior to 2010, the main booster club for the athletic department was known as the Varsity Club. During its time as the Varsity Club the program was extremely basic in terms of the funding that it provided for the athletic department and the goals that it wished to achieve.
“With the Varsity Club it really was pretty basic. It was a $25 membership. You got a polo shirt, so the money coming in wasn’t really much,” Lanning said.
For years the Varsity Club served as a catalyst for social gatherings instead of a revenue source. Because of that, the athletic department decide to make changes to it in 2010 when it was rebranded as the Falcon Club.
According to Lanning, the Falcon Club was a seismic shift compared to the Varsity Club. From 2010-2016 the Falcon Club had a different goal: Bring everyone under the same umbrella and lay out basic membership packages to garner much-needed funding for the athletic department.
When Lanning took over as the full-time athletic director in 2016, she decided that the program needed another improvement. This time, the decision was made to rebrand the program as the R-Club.
“The intent was to give people the option to donate specifically to a sport or to the general fund and it gives all of our sports an option,” Lanning said. “So, I was looking for equity in making sure women’s tennis had an R-Club, same as men’s hockey.”
The changes to the R-Club provided much more variety to the program than any booster club that has been previously seen at UWRF. Currently, there are different tiers that can be achieved by donors based on the amount of money that they have donated. At each tier, donors receive various benefits, such as discounts when shopping the online Falcons store or behind-the-scenes access through the “Falcon Game Day Experience.”
The lowest tier available through the R-Club is called the Alumni Club. It costs $50 to $99 annually. The highest tier is the Lifetime R-Club Membership which is a $25,000 endowed gift. According to Lanning, so far nobody has donated the money required to reach the Lifetime R-Club Membership level.
Between those two tiers, there are six more categories ranging in price from $100 to $3,000 annual donations.
With the elaborate tier-based club system, the R-Club has served as an important new revenue source for the athletic department that has provided the funds for several improvements to the Falcon Center facility.
“Money that is donated to the general athletic fund through the R-Club is used at the discretion of the athletic director,” Lanning said. “So, championship banners. I’ve used it for some of our facility small projects that we’ve needed to do. I try and look at projects that are going to benefit the majority of our sports or at least more than one sport.”
According to the R-Club brochure, “The R-Club serves as a catalyst to connect our past and future, and generates support to enhance the student-athlete experience.”
The R-Club has done exactly that. Currently — according to the UWRF website — 85 people are giving annually to the athletic department through the program.
“When it was $25, it was basically a transaction, more of a social engagement,” Lanning said. “This has turned into a revenue source for us. It’s really a minimal effort way for the teams to bring in money to their programs.”